The Career of Galileo Galilei
This can be briefly summarised as follows:
1564: born in Pisa
1592-1610: Taught mathematics in Padua, a
city under the protection of Venice. Convinced from early on of the truth of
Copernicanism (see the rise of Copernicanism).
1609: Obtained the principles of the
telescope, constructed his own, and observed the craters of the Moon, the
phases of Venus and the moons of Jupiter, none of which was predicted by the
1610: Went to work for Cosimo de Medici in
Florence, insisting on the title first philosopher and mathematician.
1613: Wrote to Benedetto Castelli about the
compatibility of Copernicanism with Scripture - this letter later developed
into The Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (1615).
1616: Cautioned by Cardinal Bellarmine in
Rome not to teach Copernicanism as a fact,
though Copernicus book De Revolutionibus
was re-published in 1620 with the heliocentric view treated as a hypothesis. Cardinal Maffeo Barberini of
Florence was instrumental in ensuring the books re-publication.
1632: Galileo published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World
Systems - Ptolemaic and Copernican. This passed the ecclesiastical censors, and
indeed did nominally present the systems as alternatives, but actually it was
heavily pro-Copernican. Moreover, it appeared to ridicule the Aristotelian
views of Barberini, by then Pope Urban VIII.
1633: Galileo was interrogated, and abjured
his views under pressure. Put under house arrest until his death in 1642
(though he continued to be vigorously engaged in astronomy and other scientific
work, including suggestions as to how a clock might be governed by a pendulum).
To understand how Galileo came to be on
trial it is necessary to know a little more about the man himself. As T.S. Kuhn
pointed out, Galileo saw falling bodies, and swinging bodies, pendulums,
differently from the way they had been seen before.(Eventually, indeed, he was able to see a pendulum, a feather dropped from the
Tower of Pisa, and the Earth itself, all as examples of falling bodies.) This
was partly because he was not brought up solely on Aristotles ideas of motion,
but was already familiar with the impetus theory of the 14th-Century scholars
Buridan and Oresme. But also
Galileo was blessed with an extraordinary clarity of thought which enabled him,
for example, to discern a truth which had never been observed on Earth (because
of friction) - that a body in motion will continue in the same motion unless a
force acts on it. He was also possessed of a great curiosity about the world,
which fired him to construct one of the earliest telescopes and observe the
solar system in unprecedented detail.
Furthermore, Galileo had a strong religious
faith and was keen to relate his discoveries about the world to his Christian
understanding. But he was a disputatious and difficult character, impatient of
those who failed to follow the power of his arguments. These were all important
ingredients in the Galileo affair.
link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr.
Source: God, Humanity and the
Cosmos (T&T Clark, 1999)